Brass of the Month
September 2010 – Thomas Shernborne, 1458/9, and wife Jamon, Shernborne, Norfolk
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Copyright © 2007 Monumental Brass Society (MBS)
Page last updated 04 March 2015
Copyright: Jon Bayliss
Today nothing remains to show the identity of the two figures on this brass; the inscription, the shields and the crest on the man's helmet are all lost. When Weever was writing in the second quarter of the seventeenth century, it was only the crest, 'a Vulture splaid', that enabled him to identify the man as a member of the Shernborne family. About two hundred years later Cotman was able to quote the inscription as Thomas Sherneborne camerar. d'ne Margarete regine Anglie et Jamine uxoris ejus quondam domincellarie ejusd' regine (Thomas Sherneborne, chamberlain to the lady Margaret, queen of England, and Jamine his wife, sometime mistress of the cellar to the same queen). He gave his source as copied by Gough from Weever and was also able to describe the missing shields as bearing Gules, a lion rampant or, Shernborn, impaling, Three martlets in fess, and a file of three in chief, De Cherneys. He noted that Thomas had died on 2 February 1458, which accords perfectly with the styles of armour and dress on the brass. Cotman further noted that Thomas was lord of the manor of Shernborne in right of his mother and had taken her surname. His father was Richard Ellswick of Ribchester, Lancashire, whose marriage to Margaret Shernborne took place in 1408. The brass is still in its original Purbeck marble slab, having a chamfered edge into which the plates of the marginal inscription were once set. It was evidently once on top of a tomb chest, of which no trace remains, but is now upright against the north wall of the chancel of the church, which was rebuilt late in Queen Victoria's reign.
Records refer to Thomas as chancellor and Jamon as a maid of honour to Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI, whom she married at the age of fifteen in 1445. Parkin gives the same inscription for the Shernborne brass as Cotman but spells the name as Jamone rather than Jamine. She was French and had presumably accompanied Margaret of Anjou to England. Thomas was a servant of the queen from 1451 until his death and also served from 1445-
The brass belongs to the London B style and was presumably designed by John Essex alias Herde, the marbler based in St Paul's churchyard in London whom Henry VI consulted about his own tomb in 1454. Although brasses were being made in Norwich by this time, a major commission like this, especially where the family was in royal service, was much more likely to be carried out by a metropolitan workshop. Shernborne is in the west of Norfolk and not too far from the coast, making transport of the slab and the sides of the tomb a straightforward proposition as coastal shipping from London to the port of Lynn.